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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

So (far so good) for the Afterglow

Want to get something off your shoulders, Magnus?

That’s me.  That’s how I felt.  The guy, with the thing, and it's heavy, and he can't drop it.  Yeah, that was me, a pretty good representation of it, but now that I’ve made my decision--much better.  Honestly, I think I would feel the same way had I decided to stay in St. Louis, assuming that I could have owned that choice as vehemently.  A wise man (Milos Foreman) once said this (while playing a priest in Edward Norton’s 2000 romcom Keeping the Faith);  

The truth is you can never tell yourself there is only one thing you could be. If you are a priest or if you marry a woman it's the same challenge. You cannot make a real commitment unless you accept that it's a choice that you keep making again and again and again. 

Granted Foreman was trying to advise a confused Father Norton on jonsing for Jenna Elfman (remember when she was a thing?  Crazy, right?), but the point remains; perception is all about choice.  Making this choice has energized me and galvanized my grad school path.  Going to grad school is not the only thing that I could do, but it’s what I want to do, it’s what I’ve chosen to do and because of that, it’s that much more important to me. 

The true take away from this flick: the jewish guy gets the girl.

There are lot of specifics that I need to tackle before getting to Columbia, perhaps the biggest of which is figuring out how to survive on $6,000 my first year, but hey, that’s really future Jeremy’s problem.  He’ll work it out.  He always usually occasionally does.  Right now I have a peace of mind that I haven’t had since those glorious three weeks between submitting my applications and receiving the first piece of grad school news—ironically Mizzou both crumbled and re-initiated that feeling. 

The good news for you, the reader, is that I shall be continuing this blog as a chronicle of grad school preparation, which will eventually flow into the blog, Just Dumb Enough… to go to Grad School.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Looming Loomy Thing that Looms

In a lot of things, I find that my strategy is akin to a football Hail Mary—just put it out there and see what happens.  I use it in football, sure, other games of sport, games of board, with women, pretty much with anything that I can rebound from I’d rather risk it all for the chance of everything rather than find contentment in mediocrity.  But there’s a sizable difference between losing Park Place to your mom when gambling it all in Monopoly and moving in with your mom when mortgaging your future on a career in writing.  In either event thinking about a hotel might be the best option.

Go directly to jail.  Do not pass 'Go'.  Do not collect $200.

This week I went back and read my past year’s worth of blog posts, and aside from noticing an increased laxness in spelling and penchant for rambling—sorry—I saw that my fear was well documented.  Originally, it was fear of not getting accepted into grad school and being forced to abandon a dream.  But then upon acceptance it morphed into fear of the consequences of not getting into the right program, and then that turned into a fear of a future that held an MA in English and nothing else. 

What a scared, little prick I am

But my decision has come down to a higher motivation.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been steadily harassing the director of Mizzou’s creative writing program, essentially imploring him to tell me what I should do, hoping that he’d process my life story and command that I do either A or B.  He’s been great, very patient, but ultimately little help because he’s always thrown the decision back to me.  Jerkwad.  However, this past week, in his muddy Kentucky accent, he gave me this ear-worm that has stuck with me;

“You have to decide what’s greater; your excitement to be in the program and the promise it offers, or your fear of the consequences it brings.”

At the beginning of my blog I had such excitement, such romantic and naive hope of simply getting into a program.  And despite setbacks and concerns I pressed onward with steadfast bravery or stupidity, I’m not sure which, because more than just getting in I was excited about the prospect of doing something that I loved.  And amidst all of my fears and worrying, I had lost track of that excitement. 

With that in mind, I’d like to take this time to announce that I’ll be taking my talents to South Beach, the south beach of the Missouri River and accept Mizzou’s offer into its Masters in English, with a concentration in creative writing, program.  I just sent out the e-mail.

In my first blog posts I wrote, Applying to grad school requires a certain break from sanity.  It has to.”  That still rings true, but I think I’ve found that it requires that same break from sanity to believe you can make a future with an MA in English with a Creative Writing concentration.  When throwing a Hail Mary, you can’t be afraid of tossing an interception, or a dropped pass, or anything bad that might happen because as unlikely as it might be, you've got to be focused on throwing a touchdown.  And that’s a great feeling. 

Wow, way too many sports clich├ęs in this one.  Don’t worry, I’m a grad student now.  I won't have time to think of any references from here on.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Tiny Ship Was Tossed

When I was on the Track & Field team in middle school I had a coach who liked to patrol the regimented rows of our pre-practice stretches, walking up and down the lanes of his “athletes”, issuing words of encouragement.   One of his favorite quips was; “think about this, men, while you’re out here sweating, bettering yourselves, your buddies are just sitting on the couch, eating Doritos, and watching Gilligan’s Island”.

We all found this funny because; one, we had only ever seen Gilligan’s Island on Nick at Night—emphasis on the ‘night’—and two, every one of us absolutely wished that we were sitting on couches, eating Doritos, and watching some kind of magical version of Gilligan’s Island that aired at 4:00 PM in 1999. 

"Wind sprints, crunchy granola, can't lose" - Coach Maz
That’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling about this grad school decision process, like I’d rather take the fun, easy choice, but knowing that the harder, more challenging course might ultimately be more rewarding.  The real confusion; however,  is figuring out which is the track practical choice and which is the route of                                                                             the S.S. Minnow. 

One huge factor in this whole shenanigan-fest  that I should mention, which I think most people who read this blog already know, is that I have a pre-existing medical condition.  When I was 19-years-old I was diagnosed with Crohnes Disease, a chronic ailment which causes my intestines to hemorrhage if not properly mediated.  If properly medicated it makes my tummy sound like it has trapped a small grumbly bear at times.  I actually wrote an essay about it that I submitted with my most recent applications so I won’t get into now (ask me for a copy of the piece if you’re interested).  The point-nugget to take away here is that my condition is not a big deal as long as it’s properly medicated, which isn’t a big deal as long as I have good health benefits.

Mizzou will offer me such benefits, but after I graduate… I’m just floating out there without health insurance or with ridiculously high monthly subsidies until and if I find a job with good benefits, hopefully in my field.

It sucks.

Until the Affordable Care Act figures out a way to beat that genius “Broccoli Defense”, I’m kind of screwed.  Leaving a steady job where I could take other masters classes and move my way up the college hierarchy for a humanities degree that offers little more than a hope and a dream is more than frightening to me—it’s dangerous. 

This combined with the friends and lifestyle that I’ve culled out in St. Louis makes rejecting grad school and staying put the easy Gilligan choice, right?  No risk, no stressing out about the future, just comfort and familiarity.  And in turn that would make enrolling into a difficult grad school that may be keeping true to my original lofty aspirations, refusing to give up the hope ship and take the easy way out, the difficult track practice choice, right?  Not so fast, Professor.
The tale of a fateful trip?  Check.

I would love nothing more than to write, read, and teach for the next two years within a community that supports and strengthens my efforts.  Being “the best” at something has never been a need for me, but being among the best, being just as good as anybody at something, has been my constant aspiration.  It would be nice to be there again.  If nothing more, getting my creative writing masters would be an romantically enjoyable quest, which would be awfully writer-y, but then again, so is dying diseased at a young age so there's that.  It would be amazingly easy for me to immediately call Mizzou’s director and tell him that he had me at “we’ll give you the money.”

But then what comes afterwards?  I’d either have to try to pursue a PhD (another 5 years in who-knows-where) or go off into an unknown, uninsured abyss and I can’t stand it.  I been there before.   So ditching my dreams for a more practical career/ life choice may be difficult, but more ultimately rewarding than two great years in Columbia, right?

Seriously, right?  Or wrong?  FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SOMEONE TELL ME! 

I have less than two weeks to give Mizzou my decision and I have no idea.  The more I think about it, the more I have no idea or too many ideas, and the more that makes me think about it.  I’ve been sucked into a decision whirlpool that’s spiraling me down to nowhere.  I only hope that when I finally land, I’m shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island, or on the mainland, or on the couch, or somewhere.  I don’t know.